U.S. Department of the Army civilians begin testing on the Jointless Hull (Courtesy US Army/Kendall Swank)
U.S. Department of the Army civilians begin testing on the Jointless Hull (Courtesy US Army/Kendall Swank)

The Jointless Hull machine, said to be the world’s largest additive and subtractive manufacturing platform, has earned the 2024 Technical Achievement Award for 3D Printing Innovation at the 8th Annual Military Additive Manufacturing Summit & Technology Showcase (MIL AM). The awards intend to honour individuals or groups that have shown exceptional achievement in Additive Manufacturing, in support of the Department of Defense (DoD) mission priorities.

The Jointless Hull is located in the Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center (JMTC) at the Rock Island Arsenal (RIA), Illinois, where it was built for the US Army in conjunction with RIA-JMTC, the US Army Ground Systems Center, Ingersoll Machine Tool, the Applied Science and Technology Research Organization of America, Siemens and LIFT. The Jointless Hull is operated by the workforce of Department of the Army civilians.

“To be able to 3D print something that is forging level quality didn’t exist until now,” said Edward Flinn, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence at RIA-JMTC. “In the past, except for some unique situations, it’s always been a weldment or assembly using conventional techniques. The joints were always the weakest section of the part. This new system makes it possible for people to not worry about the joints or seams because you can make it in one piece.”

The Jointless Hull combines friction stir deposition AM technology developed by Meld Manufacturing and Ingersoll Machine Tool’s Gantry crane system. The collective efforts result in the largest library of materials that can be directly additively manufactured and machined without a heat treat cycle in between.
“The technology is a way to print metal with the same properties that you would get from like a blacksmith with a hammer,” said Chase Cox, vice president of Meld Manufacturing. “So, you get metal hot, put pressure on it and it forms and changes shape. The only difference here is we don’t have a hammer. We have a machine that’s applying the force and we’re rotating that material to get the heat built up. From there, the material can deposit much like a plastic printer.”

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